Monday, March 23, 2009

Catoe: Time to Go?

Just over two years ago, when Metro GM John B. Catoe took over, one of his first priorities was to clean the system up, and unfortunately for riders sick of broken down trains and delays, he meant it literally, not figuratively. This is from a Washington Business Journal article in March 2007, shortly after Mr. Catoe took over.
“He's also focused on creating a culture of cleanliness at Metro, and one of Catoe's first orders of business was making repairs to a railcar washing system. He wants cleaner trains, buses and stations; it's a trait he learned from his father, who drove a cab in D.C. for 35 years and kept a spotless vehicle. ‘That provides an image to your customers,’ says Catoe. ‘And from the standpoint of our employees, that's their office, so why not have a clean place to work? I've got a real pet peeve about dirty vehicles. It will not change in a week, but it will change."’

We’ll give him credit, Metro trains and stations are certainly clean, but Metro's image is far from good.
Over the past couple of months since we've been blogging about it, Metro has been plagued by derailments, broken down trains, allegations of fraud, drug/alcohol abuse by drivers and budget gaps. Mr. Catoe, who can't even get to his online chats on time has been at the helm of Metro for more than two years now, and as far as we can tell, things are only getting worse.
Adding to the irritation is the apparent denial among Metro officials that there's anything wrong. When asked about the recent spate of equipment derailments that caused major delays, a Metro spokesman said simply "This is highly unusual." This after four derailments in two days!
In response to reports of fraud and misspending, which could result in the loss of federal funding, Mr. Catoe said Metro is a "huge ship to flip over completely ... We're not perfect, but we're getting there."
He wants to flip the ship? Hmm. There's a better nautical analogy. Did he mean sink? That's where Metro seems headed, and Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, a Metro board member, seems to agree.

"Contemplating giving more money to an agency that has flaws like this is a tough pill for a lot of my colleagues," McKay said, noting that the county is facing its own budget crisis. The reports demonstrate "that we haven't really sifted through a lot of years of corruption and lax oversight at Metro," he said. "It makes you wonder where the bottom is." Source: The Washington Post

With your own board saying things like this, where is the urgency to get it right or at least better? Where are the apologies? Where is the contrition? And most importantly, where is the improvement?
Do you think it's time for Mr. Catoe to step down and pass the torch to someone who goes beyond providing a clean fa├žade to a fundamentally mismanaged and potentially rotten transit system? It might not solve all of Metro's problems, but it could be the first step in getting the real cleaning done.
Send an email to Lisa Farbstein, Metro's director of public relations, and let her know how you feel. You can also reach Metro's public affairs at 202-962-1051.

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Anonymous said...

He should go.

Anonymous said...

Two years is more than enough time to have something to show.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the real work on the level you are complaining about (implementation) is not done somewhere else, meaning by a manager closer to the action. Do you or we know anything in detail about who manages lower down? There are key people that must be in place to make the systems run effectively, apart from the top guy. Are those people there? Do we know who they are?

I am a frequent bus rider, and only infrequently (thank God) take the trains. But when I do - I say thank God, because as a general rule, I prefer being above ground - the experience is distinctly not bad at all. There have never been any nightmare situations for me, and yes, that is quite possibly because I don't ride the trains enough.

Let's get Metro Fixed said...

I'm sure you're right, but it's the GM's role to ferret under performers out and either improve their work or get rid of them. We see no messages like that coming from Mr. Catoe

Anonymous said...

My question remains: do we know who are the managers closest to the action? And do we know what their background is and if they are doing a good job?

Let's get Metro Fixed said...

Sadly, no. I seldom see anyone quoted other than Catoe, board members and other top level mgmt.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I saw an ad in car number 6080 on the Yellow Line asking: "Are you going home for the Holidays?"

I thought to myself, "Easter?"

Christmas was 4 months ago, so that ad went up in late November...we have a $29 million gap...why is Metro failing to maximize ad revenue?

It's way past the time when Catoe should have shown un improvements or a vision for Metro for the 21st Century. He needs to go and he needs to go now.

Anonymous said...

I'm not liking this Catoe guy at all. I'm a native of the DC area but have also lived in other cities. The DC Metro is unique and a great system in many ways however it seems like since Catoe has been added, there's been a continuous series of issues, including financial woes, etc. It's time for another level of competency -- time for someone new.

Barbi said...

Metro is plain filthy and mostly because employees don't do their jobs. Also because of the track dust, which metro knows about but won't talk about or do anything about. This dust coats everything from lights in the tunnels to just about everything else. Often you will have a hard time finding a bottle of cleaner in the tool kit of maintenance employees.
Oh here is a good one. Metro employees get a tool allowance every year to keep up the latest tools and equipment. Supervisors are suppose to check the tools against a minimum list that they keep, or make, or where ever it comes from. They don't so tools are not check and it's a free paycheck for metro employees, every year! Darn in the Jackson Graham building we don't get those :( But everyday as soon as we punch in we go and get breakfast before starting our job. Remember this is where the GM and all the big wigs are...oh sorry they get breakfast too. I guess it's like that with everyone in DC they go to work then go to breakfast..right? Or is that just a perk working in the Jackson Graham building?

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